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Black Expression: African American Music Essay

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Updated: Mar 29th, 2022


Music is universal, and all races cultures and tribes have unique music. Music is also an integral part of African culture. In some cultures, music is a source of entertainment, while in African cultures; music is a medium for communication and passing of knowledge. African American music style can be traced to West Africa, which appears to be the mother land of the African American ancestors. This can be seen by the deep African influence that is in jazz and blues.

Slavery, which began in the 16th century, uprooted Africans from their mother land to settle in new lands across the Atlantic Ocean. These people who suffered the fate of being slaves had nothing but the music they knew to lean on when times got hard (Walker, 42). T

hey mostly sang at the end of a work day before going to sleep and during working hours to maintain enthusiasm levels. These songs reflected their hardship and dreams they had for the future. Different types of music branched out from these songs as slaves become free after the outlawing of the slave trade.

The music of the now free slaves caught on like wild fire and spread across America. The rhythms that encased the compositions were highly addictive even to the most rigid white counterparts. The documentation of cases of slaves performing for their masters in the past is common.

Though these cases were few, it clearly showed the extent of African music bridging the race divide in America (Walker, 48). Concerts were happening across America as these freed slaves were rising to stardom. The exact people who enslaved them and acted as their slave masters for a greater part of the 16th century were now their fans. Black musicians became household sensations in white homes and across America.

African American music acted as a bridge between the cultures one being a minority culture, the slaves, and the wide spread white community all over America. This music was not just for the African American, somehow it managed to penetrate the stereotype that was tagging slave music at that time, becoming known almost everywhere in America.

This music was gaining acceptance of some of the whites because it carried experiences applicable to both white and African alike. These songs were a refreshing change from the soulless music that was filling the airwaves at that point in time. Gospel and jazz African music could move individuals to tears because it encompassed emotions and the truth.

Secondly, African American music brought identity to some parts of America because the original Americans tended to be cultureless and had nothing distinguishing them from other parts of the world or their neighbors in other states. This music brought identity to states like New Orleans where jazz is a way of life.

African American gospels took Christianity to a different level in America. Large churches grew as a result of the wide following of these soulful choirs that performed the songs in the church. These songs had such heart that it was common to hear people say that angels came down on Sundays to listen gospel songs performed by the choirs. This music was so enticing that some of the white flock wound up on African American churches on Sundays to be part of the movement shaping the American nation.

Expressionism is the way of conveying ones beliefs or thoughts through creative ways. African Americans brought expressionism in various forms in the New Orleans. Art, religion and, death and after life, are examples of some of the ideologies that African Americans were imposing.

Religion in the New Orleans is a product of heavy influence by African American expressionism. These African Americans converted the religious gospels to favor their African background (Rodriguez-Mangual & Cabrera, 52). This ensured the creation of their own form of religion from the dominant protestant faction at the time. From gospel songs to religious background, all these alterations were to suit the emerging black demographic.

Beliefs in the death and after life are a product of African influence. The jazz burials in New Orleans are a good example of this. In West African countries, the death of an elderly person is an occasion worth celebrating because death is a phase not an end as most people think (Rodriguez-Mangual &Cabrera, 45). Celebrations remembering the dead are also a common occurrence in the New Orleans. These celebrations have a lot of pomp and color because life is worth celebrating well.


Jazz was a genre of music that developed from the slave songs. The slaves used to sing while working in the cotton fields or when congregating, in the evening, to share their day’s story. Jazz has deeply been associated with New Orleans that just the mere mentioning of jazz transfers the person to the state. Jazz is more of a life style as the beats reverberate throughout the state of New Orleans carrying with it the history and culture of the state. African expressionism is visible by the regarding of jazz as an art on its own.

Works Cited

Rodriguez-Mangual, Edna M. Lydia Cabrera and the Construction of an Afro-Cuban Cultural Identity. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2004. Print.

Walker, Daniel E. No More, No More: Slavery and Cultural Resistance in Havana and New Orleans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. Print.

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